Hypable Exclusive Author Interview: Leah Cypess

9:00 am EST, November 9, 2012
Exclusive

Leah Cypess is the author of the young adult fantasy novel Mistwood, and its companion Nightspell. Her work has earned starred reviews in Kirkus and acclaim from the ALA Booklist and School Library Journal. Leah wrote in her spare time through law school and legal practice, and now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband and their three children.

Could you tell us 5 random facts about yourself?

1. I like blue

2. I also like green, actually.

3. I think dark blue and forest green match and look great together. And I sometimes dress accordingly, even though everybody I know disagrees violently with my assessment.

4. At other times, I wear clothes that don’t match, but it’s not quite with the same sense of social defiance. It’s just because I have a bad habit of not noticing that clothes are dirty until I’m wearing them and have five minutes to get out the door.

5. I don’t really care that much about colors, or even clothes, in a general sense. But you should beware of saying “random” to me.

Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.

I’ve known I wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. In first grade, I wrote a story from the point of view of an ice-cream cone, and when I was eights years old I told my grandmother I intended to be an author when I grew up. (Actually, I intended to be the youngest ever published author, but then I saw this tv news interview with a 7-year-old who had sent a peace poem to Russia, and my dreams died a sudden and painful death.)

My journey to being a published writer, however, was far more complicated. Also at around the age of eight, I started trying to notice how publishers packaged their books and who they published, because I figured this would help me “pick a publisher” when I was ready. I decided I’d go with Greenwillow Books, since they published Diana Wynne Jones and she was my favorite author.

At the age of fifteen, I started sending books and stories to various magazines. I would stop off at the library on my way home from school, go to the Reference section, and painfully copy out entries from Writer’s Market. I got, of course, slews of rejections. I knew to expect that, so my confidence was unabated. There was only one letter that stung – from Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, the only magazine I actually subscribed to (well, that and Cat Fancy – even though I didn’t have a cat – but that’s a very long story). I loved the selection in that magazine and they were all exactly the types of stories I wrote, so I figured they would be the first to publish me.

But my first rejection letter from Marion Zimmer Bradley was a form letter which explained that, “I am sorry to say that in this story you did not manage to get me sufficiently interested in your characters to care whether they lived and did well or whether a convenient earthquake came and swallowed them all up on the last page.” And yes, you read correctly. That was the standard language on one of her form letters.

At the age of 17, I finally got my first story accepted to publication – at Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine. Thick skins are very important in this business.

I then started sending my first full-length book manuscript to editors. I collected rejections from pretty much every imprint in existence. Over the next five manuscripts, I slowly graduated from form rejections, to “not this one, but send us your next one” rejections, to personal regretful rejections explaining in length why this manuscript wasn’t a good fit, to revision requests, to rejections that came from the acquisitions committee rather than the editor.

Finally, a mere 15 years after my first submission, I got an offer to publish Mistwood. It came from Greenwillow Books.

What has surprised you about writing and publishing?

When it comes to writing, I’m surprised by every book I write. I always think I have a sense of where the story is going, and somewhere along the way, it always takes a left turn. That’s one of my favorite parts of writing, and one of the reasons I don’t outline.

With publishing, pretty much everything surprised me. I had never thought about what happened afterward; that offer to publish, to have a real book with my name on it, was the gold at the end of the rainbow for me.

Why do you feel drawn to the stories you write?

With short stories, I’m usually drawn to an idea that I think is cool and unusual and/or looks at an issue I really care about through a different angle. With novels, I usually need two things – a character that comes to life in my mind and a situation that spurs my imagination.

At what point in the development of an idea do you know that it will become a full-length novel?

It depends on the idea. With Mistwood, I knew somewhere in the middle of the second chapter that this wasn’t actually going to be a short story. With Nightspell, I knew from the start it was a full-length book idea.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?

I shut all criticism out of my mind, so I can’t answer that.

Just kidding. Though to be honest, there isn’t any particular critique or review that sticks out in my mind – I do know what seems to bother a lot of people, and those are the things I try hardest to work on. With Mistwood, a number of people felt the secondary characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could be, so that was something I tried to correct while writing Nightspell. With Nightspell, a lot of people didn’t like that there wasn’t enough romance, which is somewhat frustrating to me since I never intended the book to be a romance – but Barnes & Noble shelved it under paranormal romance, so people understandably felt that they didn’t get what they had expected.

What has been the best compliment you’ve received?

What means the most to me are those reviewers who have become fans – who are eagerly anticipating my next book and will read it no matter what it’s about. That’s how I feel about my own favorite authors, and though I don’t think I’m in their league, it’s really amazing to think that there are people who feel that way about my writing.

Where’s your favorite place to write?

A beach on a windy day. Or, in reality: the playground when my kids have friends to play with and therefore don’t interrupt me.

Do you most relate to your main characters, or to secondary characters?

I tend to write in a pretty limited third-person POV, which makes me relate most to my main characters. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the characters who are most like me.

How do you approach writing villains?

I don’t know if I write “villains” (though come to think of it, I may have in Nightspell). I think everyone has reasons for the things they do, even when those things are evil. I also think that understanding someone’s actions is not the same as condoning them.

What is your favorite chapter or scene you’ve written recently?

I have this tendency to love the next thing I’m going to write the best. That said, I recently wrote a rough draft of a scene for the sequel of Deathsworn, and while I can’t say anything about it without major spoilers, I kind of hug myself thinking about it.

(Sorry. I know that is massively uninformative. If it makes you feel any better, I give it about a 30% chance that in a week I’ll look at the scene again and realize it needs to be cut.)

Which is easier to write: The first line or the last line?

The first line!

Which one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?

Split by Swati Avasthi. First, because it’s amazing, and second, because it deals with a topic (spouse abuse) I’ve never really understood – and probably still don’t, but I now understand what I don’t understand.

Do you have things you need in order to write? (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music?)

Paper. Pen. That’s about it.

What are you working on now?

The aforementioned sequel to Deathsworn. It’s my first time writing a sequel, and it’s been a challenge, but there’s also something very satisfying about getting to stay with the same character for so long.

For more about Leah Cypess:

You can find Cypess’ books on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter, and contact her through her website at leahcypess.com.

When the news broke about X-Men: Supernova being adapted for film, the reactions were as predictable as they were extreme: “Yay!” from the fanboys and “Oy vey” from the general populace. And strange as it feels to me, I align with the casual moviegoers, despite being the guy who went to see the last two X-movies dressed as Mystique and Cyclops.

A quick word about my X-geek credentials: I’m not a comic book reader, but was obsessed with all the TV shows, and transferred that obsession to the film franchise. And I don’t hate The Last Stand as much as you want me to; I just thought it was meh.

I think rehashing the Dark Phoenix storyline is a bad idea both financially and creatively. Financially, it wouldn’t go over well with casual moviegoers. Anyone who knows enough to be excited about a Dark Phoenix movie would go see it anyway, and everyone else will wonder why they should bother seeing a story they just saw 12 years earlier. There’s a reason Amazing Spiderman made less than two-thirds the gross of the original Spiderman, despite 3D and a decade of inflation — why bother paying to see a film when you can just stream the last incarnation?

Read full article

When the news broke about X-Men: Supernova being adapted for film, the reactions were as predictable as they were extreme: “Yay!” from the fanboys and “Oy vey” from the general populace. And strange as it feels to me, I align with the casual moviegoers, despite being the guy who went to see the last two X-movies dressed as Mystique and Cyclops.

A quick word about my X-geek credentials: I’m not a comic book reader, but was obsessed with all the TV shows, and transferred that obsession to the film franchise. And I don’t hate The Last Stand as much as you want me to; I just thought it was meh.

I think rehashing the Dark Phoenix storyline is a bad idea both financially and creatively. Financially, it wouldn’t go over well with casual moviegoers. Anyone who knows enough to be excited about a Dark Phoenix movie would go see it anyway, and everyone else will wonder why they should bother seeing a story they just saw 12 years earlier. There’s a reason Amazing Spiderman made less than two-thirds the gross of the original Spiderman, despite 3D and a decade of inflation — why bother paying to see a film when you can just stream the last incarnation?

Creatively, I want to see the film franchise take on a new story, instead of trying to do an old one better. Sony finally figured that out: no one wants to pay to see Peter Parker watch Uncle Ben get killed yet again, so just move on. Even from watching the cartoons and reading Wikipedia, I know that X-Men has some fantastic storylines to explore: Genosha, Legacy Virus, or House of M. When the films have given the fans a cinematic incarnation of an exciting new story, the results have been overwhelmingly positive: consider Days of Future Past, or the excitement for Old Man Logan.

Even if they redo Dark Phoenix, what are the odds it’ll be that much better? Sophie Turner is not a markedly better actress than Famke Janssen. It would be at the same studio, produced by a lot of the same people who did The Last Stand and Apocalypse. It may be time to just write off the Dark Phoenix saga as a lost cause for the film franchise. Fans will always have the original comics to return to, and two animated incarnations of it (‘90s X-Men and Wolverine and the X-Men).

It’s the same way I feel about the Harry Potter franchise: I wish we could get decent movie adaptations of the books, but I’m much more excited for new stories in Fantastic Beasts, and happy to ignore the movies in favor of rereading the books. Films are not the be-all-end-all creative expression of a story.

Of course, I’ll still go see X-Men: Supernova when it comes out, but I really hope the next X-Men film gives me something to be excited about. I am familiar with going in to see films and thinking, “God, I hope they don’t eff it up again.” That’s how I felt for the latter Harry Potter movies. I’d be happy if they did a film centered on Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey, because I thought she was one of the few highlights of X-Men Apocalypse, but I truly hope they just leave the Dark Phoenix storyline well enough alone.

Do you want to see a retread of Dark Phoenix, or are you over it?

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunner Jed Whedon discusses those killer twists and writing fanfiction in the aftermath of the spring finale.

Jed Whedon wrote and directed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, the episode that brought the current LMD storyline to an ostensible close. “Self Control” also completely changed the game for the rest of the season, sending Daisy into the ‘upside down’ of the world of the Framework to rescue the rest of the team.

But the Framework is a world where resolved regrets have appalling consequences — and that world is run by the likes of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Whedon offered up his thoughts on upcoming themes, that crazy return, and the life and death stakes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra.

Read full article

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. showrunner Jed Whedon discusses those killer twists and writing fanfiction in the aftermath of the spring finale.

Jed Whedon wrote and directed Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×15, the episode that brought the current LMD storyline to an ostensible close. “Self Control” also completely changed the game for the rest of the season, sending Daisy into the ‘upside down’ of the world of the Framework to rescue the rest of the team.

But the Framework is a world where resolved regrets have appalling consequences — and that world is run by the likes of Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen. Whedon offered up his thoughts on upcoming themes, that crazy return, and the life and death stakes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra.

First, what’s it like being an evil genius, destroyer of fandoms?

Oh well, you know! I get a lot of love-hate tweets at me.

When did you first have the idea to go into this alternate timeline, and basically write fanfiction of your own story?

You know, we end every year with talking about what next year will be. So last year, we had a lot of different things on our plate that we wanted to get into the season, and I think you can see we packed a lot in. But there’s sort of three big ideas — Ghost Rider, LMDs, and some sort of alt-world where we could, as you say, write some fanfiction for our characters and explore new things.

You know, I think this is our eighty-first episode that just aired, and that’s a lot of stories. So it’s refreshing for everybody, in production, action, and writers, to flip the script for a little while and get to sort of shake it out and use a new muscle.

So that’s something we talked about doing, and then figuring out how to do it, and how to make all those stories sort of become one thing was the real puzzle. And that’s where the Darkhold came in, and the idea that, finding a way that the Darkhold could sort of get us new tech, and the tech could get us to Alt-World. And so it was sort of a year in the making, and then it’s just a question of, what do we want to do in there? What kind of fun do we want to have?

Speaking of that, can you clarify the parameters of the Framework? Is it really an ideal world, as Aida and Radcliffe seem to think?

Yeah, I think that Radcliffe and Aida set out to duplicate the world, and with some of the info that Aida got from the Darkhold, they were able to do that. Now, the one change that they made was they plugged I think five people into it and repaired one regret for each of them, and that seems to have had a little bit of a ripple effect. We’ll get to learn more about the nature of that reality, but they were setting out to make our world. And it just seems when you change something, there’s a little bit of a butterfly effect.

So putting Jemma aside, who is decidedly her own case as she is apparently dead, which character’s new life do you think will be most surprising to fans?

Well, that’s a little bit of a wait and see question. But one thing I can say is that the themes we’re exploring are sort of, are you different if you’re in a different situation? Or are you inherently the same person? Obviously, we see May standing without much fear in a Hydra building, seemingly like she’s on top of the world. And so the question is, is she still her? Or have her new experiences changed her enough to be someone else?

Those are some of the themes that we’re going to explore. And you’ll get to see how each person is different and sort of judge for yourself who is the most different. But those are some of the themes we wanted to dig into. Is there a true you, or are you made up of your regrets — and what happens if you take those away?

And in terms of Jemma, you were very careful to obscure the date of her death on the tombstone. Is there any significance to that, or a mystery we should be keeping an eye out for?

In general in the Marvel Universe, dates are avoided. Because so much is connected… and I think that if you really asked, they would say that since the first Iron Man movie, like, two months has passed, or something insane! [laughs] You know, I think that we try to avoid them in general, but also it’s just so that you don’t know what’s happening, and we don’t have to answer all those questions, or stick super strictly to the exact timeline of when things would have occurred, so that we can have a little more wiggle room in terms of what stories we tell.

But yeah, we don’t know if it happened 20 years ago, or recently. We don’t know because we put a little flower over that!

But there’s a chance that we’ll see Jemma again?

There is a chance! And I’ll just say that we love Elizabeth [Henstridge] too much to have her go out off camera.

Okay, cool! So in terms of Ward, you definitely know how to keep the fandom churning! Is there a possibility that he will show up beyond the alternate universe, or is his role strictly in imaginary land?

Well, we’ll have to wait and see. But right now, there’s only five people in the Framework who actually have bodies in our world. [Ward] is a simulation, but he’s a simulation of exactly who he was. As Yo-Yo says, how do you populate a whole world? And Daisy very conveniently answers, “With the Darkhold.” It’s sort of our catch-all/fix-all solve this year, the Darkhold. It gave them this ability to sort of duplicate our world, so he is Grant Ward as we knew him.

Now, the world is different around him, and so whether or not he reacted the same to the changes in the world, we’ll see. But Grant Ward never enters the picture and makes things run smoother!

That’s for sure. So if you were to boil down what we can expect from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Hydra, what would you say?

Nightmares and dreams coming true.

…Oh boy.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. 4×16, “What If…” will air on Tuesday, April 4 at 10:00 p.m. on ABC.

Instagram has launched a new feature which’ll decrease the amount of stress you may feel when creating a post.

Sometimes you want to share multiple pictures or videos from one experience, but you may want to avoid clogging your friends’ feeds with multiple posts in a row. Or, you just can’t decide which photo you want to share to brag about your night.

One solution has been to stick multiple images into a single frame — a trick that became so popular, Instagram made their own app for it called Layouts. But stress no more! On February 22, Instagram released a new feature which lets you upload multiple photos to a single post.

Read full article

Instagram has launched a new feature which’ll decrease the amount of stress you may feel when creating a post.

Sometimes you want to share multiple pictures or videos from one experience, but you may want to avoid clogging your friends’ feeds with multiple posts in a row. Or, you just can’t decide which photo you want to share to brag about your night.

One solution has been to stick multiple images into a single frame — a trick that became so popular, Instagram made their own app for it called Layouts. But stress no more! On February 22, Instagram released a new feature which lets you upload multiple photos to a single post.

Multi-image Instagram posts are limited to the square format and only use one caption, but each image can receive their own filter. To view all the images, your followers swipe left or right. Up to 10 images can be placed in a single post.

In a way, the new feature lets you create a Snapchat or Instagram-like story that lives forever. It’s a welcome addition — previously only available to advertisers — and should streamline each user’s feed.

Now it’s Snapchat’s turn to copy off of Insta. Is it only a matter of time until Snap lets you permanently keep photos, videos, and stories accessible to the public in some sort of profile?

Tags: Instagram